Month: October 2022

woman's hands on a Bible

Ask For the Order

Throughout my life, I’ve owned several small companies and worked for large corporations – sadly, I’ve never owned a large corporation. 😉 One thing that was consistent within all these businesses was this: Always ask for the order. When you are doing a sales call, this idiom means enjoying your conversation with your existing client or a prospective client, but before the conversation wraps us, always ask for an order for whatever you are selling. Make the sale.

Vague prayers

I’ve noticed that there are a lot of Christians that pray ambiguous prayers. By ambiguous, I mean prayers that are “unclear or inexact.” Yes, God indeed knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and His will is unchanging, but He has made it abundantly clear that we are not to just toss a prayer to Him with little or no expectation as to His response. Consider for a moment the parable Jesus taught us about prayer.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

Luke 18:1-8 NLT

Clear, Consistent, and Correct

Jesus told us to persist in prayer. We must make our request clear, consistent, and correct! How can we know when God answers our prayers if we never made an explicit request to Him?

We see in Christ’s parable of the unjust judge that Jesus expects us to pray with consistency. The widow didn’t change her request every time she came to the judge (waffle). No, it was the same request. Our prayer requests should be consistent. We are warned in James 1:6, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

We are to pray correctly. Jesus warned us directly not to prattle on in our prayers. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) And,You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3)

Jesus mediates, and the Holy Spirit intercedes

We are to come before the Father, through Jesus, our mediator (1 Timothy 2:5-6), with clear, consistent prayers that align with the will of God. You may ask, “How can I pray within God’s will?” Well, we need to understand that, as Christians, the Holy Spirit helps us in our prayers.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.Romans 8:26-27

So, when we pray, we typically should “ask for the order,” for Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.(Matthew 7:7) However, there are times when we just need to pour our hearts out to God. That’s a good thing. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us. We can continually pray, even when we run out of words or don’t know what to pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

That’s the 411 on prayer. Let’s pause for a moment and consider how loving God is to us. He is so interested in us that He wants us to continually stay connected to Him through prayer!

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rain on a car wibdshield

Rain Clouds

Ecclesiastes 11:1 is a famous verse. It’s one of those verses that has become part of the American narrative and has spawned at least one Christian song. The verse states: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.

The meaning of this verse is a challenge – it’s not talking about soggy bread. Generally, it is interpreted: “The passage as a whole communicates the principle of doing as much good as you can, knowing two things: the results are in God’s hands, and you don’t know when you yourself will be in need of someone else’s generosity.[1]

However, today, I would like us to consider Ecceleasties 11:3–4:

3 If the clouds are full of rain,
they empty themselves on the earth,
and if a tree falls to the south or to the north,
in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4 He who observes the wind will not sow,
and he who regards the clouds will not reap.

Now you may say, “Gary, I don’t get it.” Well, there is a nugget of wisdom here that is of critical importance right now. Right now, the world appears to be a scary place.

Get On With It

If you observe the wind and regard the clouds, if you watch the news and listen to your neighbors, their fears and warnings of uncertain times can paralyze your thinking and easily give you an excuse to do nothing, and that is not how Christians are called to live.

Remember Christ’s parable of the house built on sand and the house built on the rock (Matthew 7:24–27)? The rock is a “type” for Jesus. Jesus is our rock. The rain (v3: clouds are full of rain) will not overcome us, rather, we are the overcomers.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5:2–4

Listen to the Holy Spirit, pray, talk with faithful believers, and, with prudence, do the work Jesus has called you to. Don’t let “weather forecasts” prevent you from doing God’s will. “Don’t let him [Jesus] find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. (Mark 13:34-36 NLT)” You can hear the song “Cast Your Bread On the Water” here:


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Ekg Electrocardiogram Anatomy Aorta Biology Blood

False Peace

Selling Peace

If you’ve spent time on Facebook, you know from their ADs that many companies are trying to sell you “peace.” From spas and Eastern meditation to counselors and clinics, business is booming for the peace merchants. However, true peace isn’t the same as being dead inside.

False Peace

For the vast majority of people, they will never be saved. They will never know what true peace feels like. They are eternally estranged from God. They are like babies that are never touched or coddled. They will enter their graves having never felt the presence of God, the warmth of the Holy Spirit, or the comfort from Christ.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14 (English Standard Version)

Right now, you may want to take up stones to stone me; I guess the modern thing to do is cancel me. But, before you do, consider these words from Jesus:

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.Matthew 7:14

Few find it. An equivalent statement is, “most people never find life, so they die in their sins.” Therefore, as a Christian, you are the exception; you are graced by God and kept from the eternal punishment awaiting most people. God chose you! So consider the following verses in this light:

Rebekah… gave birth to twins [Esau and Jacob]. But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God chooses people according to his own purposes; he calls people, but not according to their good or bad works.)” – Romans 9:10–12 (New Living Translation)

True Peace

I’m sorry if this is confusing to you. But how can God be God unless “He does whatever pleases him.” (Psalm 115:3) This verse makes perfect sense. God is the highest moral authority. Therefore, what pleases God is of the highest morality. He saved you for a purpose. He chose you, much like adopting parents used to choose their baby. He didn’t consider the good or bad things you had done. He didn’t consider whether your parents were saved or wicked. What pleased God was for you to be saved from eternal punishment.

You are in a very exclusive group of people. The Holy Spirit of God gives you an understanding of spiritual things. He opens God’s Word so that you can understand what His verses mean. You have Jesus, your Savior, that mediates between you and the Father. The very God of all is alive within you. God has given you promises, answered prayers, and healed your wounded heart. You are special to Him.

Good News

Love as God has commanded you. And rejoice, for you are special in His sight.

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Autumn Walk Fall Autumn Leaves Autumn Color

Ashes

Autumn

Here in the mid-west, we have begun the marvel we call autumn. Fall’s colors delight us with this season’s beauty – indeed, a grace from God. The thrum of cicadas has diminished, leaves are bursting forth in glorious hues, lawns are descending into their golden slumber, and majestic trees reveal their own beauty as they shed their canopies.

With the onset of fall, the folks that live in the country will soon be recreating their annual ritual. Their raking and building of leaf piles culminating in multi-hued leaves of every possible color burned in countless fires that blanket the whole of our country’s mid-west. We may be considered “fly-over” country, but when it comes to autumn, our land is surely the best dressed.

Conception

Thinking about the piles of ashes as a kind of door between summer and winter, I began thinking about the post I wrote titled “Some Lessons Hurt.” I thought that topic was in my writer’s rearview mirror; I think God disagreed. The last sentence in that post read: “Nevertheless, the ashes of our hopes and dreams are the ashes of the door God opens for us; some lessons hurt.” This morning I felt like I needed to swing my hammer one more time on that nail.

Think back to when you first accepted Jesus as your personal Savior. At that moment, it was just Jesus and you. I think it must be like conception; suddenly, there is life in you. God gave you a new beginning. For most of us, we didn’t think it was possible to have a second beginning. We had royally messed up our first beginning, and we carried the reward from each sin we committed. That was a heavy burden. But Jesus gave us a new start with new hopes and dreams.

O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.

Psalm 40:5 NLT

Ashes

So, you’ve been a Christian for a while. It’s likely that you’ve allowed some of those old hopes and dreams to grow inside you. But what you don’t know is what God planned for you. You don’t know how close you are to what you have prayed for. You may discover that your dream is the door that is blocking your access to God’s vision for you. Only by burning down the door can you enter God’s plan for you. The ashes of your hopes and dreams may be the ashes from the door that God opens for you. In your life, let God be God.

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Friends With God

My Experience With Jesus

Several years ago, I was put in an awkward position. I was a hiring manager for my employer, and the manager of one of the staffing companies I worked with was managed by someone who was challenging to work with; he said the same about me. At one time, we both worked for the same company. I moved on while he continued in his role.

We were polar opposites when it came to staffing. However, his employer was one of the companies on our preferred vendor list. So, we would bump heads each time I had an opening I needed to be filled. It was never personal.

Anyway, one day I received an email from him telling me he was unemployed. I knew this was a difficult step for him, so we talked and emailed a few times. Our roles switched: I was helping him transition from his job of twenty years, and he was seeking employment that would not result in a significant fall in his income and role.

Jesus Made Us Peacemakers

At one point, he expressed his surprise and appreciation. He did get back on his feet, and his career has grown and thrived. I learned an important life lesson from this experience. Jesus is a peacemaker. He did this for my friend and me, and He did this for God and me.

So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Romans 5:11

When Jesus gave His powerful Sermon on the Mount, He said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NLT) Notice that Jesus didn’t say “peacekeepers.” A peacekeeper tries to keep things the same. There is no resolution, only tension; Jesus has called us to be peacemakers. Our Lord wants us to allow the Holy Spirit to work through us to bring healing, to facilitate conflict resolution.

Jesus Makes His Followers Friends With God

I have often experienced and observed the Holy Spirit’s mighty work in this area of human relations. As reborn persons, washed in the blood of the Lamb, Jesus has made us friends of God. Think of this! Throughout the entire Old Testament, I’ve only found a handful of people that God called His friend. Abraham was a friend, as were Moses and King David. Enoch and Noah were likely friends of God, as Isaac, Joseph, and Joshua possibly were – but that’s conjecture.

So, over more than 2,000 years, we are sure of three friends of God and five candidates. Yet, because of your salvation, Jesus has made you a friend of God. You are in a rare and pious company. No matter how much we marvel at Jesus, He is more marvelous still.

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Only By Faith

I seem to keep coming back to the topic of faith. I try to span the full spectrum of God’s Word, but God keeps pulling me back to faith.

Emotion, Logic, Faith

Every decision to buy a product or service is made by emotion, justified by logic, and transformed into a purchase by faith. This rule is the way the world works. Let’s use Mr. Clean® as an example.

A commercial interrupts our video. It’s Mr. Clean! He’s burley, and his earring sparkles from his sheer cleanness rather than your glitter from the party you attended the night before. He stirs your emotions; clean is possible! You crave clean; you crave sparkle. – This is the emotion.

Next, you look at your kitchen and conclude that there is no way to make it clean, let alone sparkle; you need help! You have seen Mr. Clean demonstrate that everything he touches becomes clean and sparkly. – This is the logic…sort of.

Finally, you make the transaction; you buy a container of Mr. Clean. By faith, you have purchased something you’ve never tried. – This is faith.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are…There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles.

Romans 3:22,30

You Can Hear God Now

Faith in God is the bridge from this world we discern through our five senses to the spirit, to God’s exclusive domain. “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)” God always hears everyone, but until Jesus makes our spirit alive, we cannot connect with God.

Yesterday, I talked with a Christian brother who said, “You know, a person can know everything in the Bible and still go to hell. We must believe in Jesus.” That’s the mystery about faith. Faith is a bridge; it is how flesh connects to spirit. Faith is that bridge that crosses the chasm. It is the way we cross over from death to life in Jesus Christ.

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

Faith Enables Us to Know What We Do Not See

God has given every one of us some faith. It’s like cash in our bank account. We can live our entire life and die without ever pulling out our debit card and using our faith to receive salvation. We die having faith available to receive Christ’s salvation but remain God’s condemned criminal. It’s like falling out of an airplane with a parachute but never pulling the ripcord.

Faith enables us to know what we do not see. First, for salvation, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9) Then for life in the kingdom of God. “…encouraging them to remain true to the faith. ‘We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,’ they said.” (Acts 14:22)

Good News

We have been reborn by placing our faith in Jesus Christ, and that same faith remains with us as we pray, do good deeds, and learn how to live in God’s kingdom. We have an unimaginable, eternal future with the King of kings and Lord of lords throughout eternity. And it starts with the simple act of placing the faith God gave us in Jesus Christ, our Lord.


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My Two Friends

I have two of my friends that approach life in Christ quite differently. My one friend has an insatiable thirst for Christ in his life. He spends a lot of time listening to sermons and diligently reading and memorizing the Scriptures. He loves the book of Romans and always finds a way to talk to people about Jesus. He is a church elder and often preaches. I sincerely enjoy and respect him. I am blessed to have him as a friend.

My other friend has focused on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12). He deeply understands the Scriptures, but he rarely quotes a verse exactly when we chat. Still, for the past forty-five years, he has hosted individuals and families in his home for extended lengths of time and consistently seeks out people to share the Gospel and demonstrate genuine love, no matter what it cost him. I sincerely enjoy and respect him. I am blessed to have him as a friend.

My Contemplation

I began contemplating how does Jesus want me to live? For the first 1,500 years of Christianity, most Christians never possessed a Bible; many churches didn’t have one. So, Christians certainly didn’t read through the Bible each year, and they never had the opportunity to use a cross-reference, concordance, or commentary. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit was active in them, so lives were changed, and Christians thrived; massive numbers of people around the world turned their lives over to Jesus. That same Holy Spirit is still actively working today.

So, should I be like the saints of old and not possess a Bible? No! God has given us His Word for our spiritual health and our ministry to others. Why did God not allow Mr. Guttenberg to be born 1,500 years earlier? I have no idea. What I do know is that throughout history, God has continually broadened people’s opportunities to hear the Good News and repent.

Head and Feet

Relief from condemnation and true inner peace is what everyone longs for, but only those who receive God’s salvation acquire them. From the Bible, we learn how we can live with childlike inquisitiveness and how to discipline our bodies like athletes. Is one of my friends more right than the other? No!

19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

1 Corinthians 12:19-21

Good News

The keys to life in Jesus are faith and obedience. We are not faced with a contradiction between striving to live as an athlete for Jesus or living inquisitively as citizens in God’s kingdom. Whatever we do, we must do it in faith and without selfishness. The athlete must not judge the inquisitive citizen, and the inquisitive citizen must not judge the athlete. If we do as Jesus desires, then all of us will receive the “light burden” He promised, and we will know how we are to live our lives for Him.

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Ready Prepared Preparation Readiness Preparedness

Ready

As Christians, we often speak of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus, the Son of God. But, if asked, can we give an immediate, concise answer (2 Timothy 4:2)? A dear friend and spiritual mentor taught me to always have a one-minute, five-minute, and twenty-minute message “in my pocket.”

Be Ready in Season and Out

His thinking and I found it true, was that at a moment’s notice, I may be called upon to testify to a person, speak to an ad hoc group, or be called upon to preach a message. In those situations, we would have no time to prepare.

I saw this displayed on a street in Cluj, Romania. As a small group of us walked along a wide city sidewalk, we came upon a young Eastern Orthodox priest. He stopped us because he heard us speaking English and wanted to find out if we could understand him when he spoke English. To his delight, we did understand him.

With that out of the way, we began an enjoyable conversation. At one point, he asked how our beliefs were different from his. My friend had the answer. Within five minutes, the young priest was energized and uplifted. But when my friend asked if he could pray for the priest, the veil of orthodoxy fell, and the priest immediately took off down the street.

Our Joy Is to Share the Gospel

It’s never our job to force the outcome from a divine appointment, but it is our job to be ready with an answer. (1 Peter 3:15) Speaking of answers, here is the answer to what is the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

3 The Good News is about his [God’s] Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord.Romans 1:3–4 NLT

Our joy is found in Jesus, so let’s be ready to share Christ’s Good News anywhere with anyone at any time. Amen!

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